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Can An Angry Flight Attendant “Make It Difficult for You In Customs?”

Can An Angry Flight Attendant “Make It Difficult for You In Customs?”
Jeff Edwards

Passengers arriving in the U.S. on an American Airlines flight from Mexico recorded their flight attendant threatening, “Darling, I can make it very difficult for you in customs.” The exchange reportedly followed a tense, racism-tinged conflict on the aircraft after the cameraperson’s elderly mother took ill on the flight, causing the crew member to become irritated.

American Airlines is doing damage control after a group of family members recorded their flight attendant threatening to make their immigration process difficult in retaliation for a testy exchange on the plane. The ugly incident took place following a flight from Mexico to the U.S.

As the short video clip posted to social media begins, the person taking the footage can be heard confronting the flight attendant about her behavior during the flight. The airline employee at first attempts to ignore the provocation, but then loses her temper and responds in a completely unprofessional fashion.

“You were very rude to us,” the passenger armed with a cellphone camera begins before other family members chime in to cajole the uniformed cabin crew member.

“Darling, I can make it very difficult for you in customs,” the crew member retorts with a smirk before the short clip ends.

To make matters worse, the family involved in the exchange says that the airline worker attempted to make good on her threat, by later urging customs officials to treat the group with suspicion. The family says the crew member’s actions on the flight were at least as disturbing as her attempted abuse of power on the ground. The large group of relatives (all of whom are of Asian descent), say that their request for some assistance related to their elderly mom’s health issue was met with an unexpected racist response.

“We tried to explain that my mother felt ill from the flight and tried to properly dispose of her throw-up and Carol’s response was ‘Oh please, I’ve been dealing with you people for 30-years,’” family member @LeleMarieC wrote in a later Twitter post. “My family did not expect that response, as we had nothing to do with her career choice and her hate for her job for that matter. As soon as she said that out of line comment I pulled my phone out to record. My family said we didn’t want to argue we just wanted her to understand the interaction and how she was incredibly rude. She proceeded to insult and threaten us which is what is captured on film.”

American Airlines officials appear to be taking the matter seriously and have promised to investigate the matter. The airline immediately issued a statement vowing that “Discrimination has no place at American.”

“In our culture, every interaction with a customer or team member should be grounded in respect,” the airline wrote in a near-instant response on social media. “Please DM your travel and contact info.”

It should be noted that following a flight attendant around the airport with a video camera (for whatever reason) is something akin to following your waitress home because she forgot to bring a side of ranch dressing. On the other hand, the flight attendant’s wildly inappropriate threat was completely inexcusable – no matter what provocation she had endured.

FlyerTalk members have their own strategies for the all too common problem of dealing with a grumpy flight attendant. In nearly every instance, the world’s largest expert travel community advises to simply avoid interacting with the testy cabin crew member. In situations in which passengers have confronted ill-tempered flight attendants, the end result is almost always that everyone involved loses.

Were these family members innocent victims of an unhinged airline employee or did they contribute to creating an unnecessarily tense situation? What is the best way to handle a rude cabin crew member? Is it best to simply avoid engaging with the surly airline employee or is ignoring rude, racist or unprofessional behavior only helping to propagate the problem? Flyertalkers are having a lot of fun trying to agree on all the right answers right now in the TravelBuzz forum.


[Featured Image: American Airlines]

View Comments (20)


  1. AsiaTravel2019

    July 20, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    FA’s have a hard job and the general public sucks. But too often, some go on massive power trips. it’s good to see this one will be checked.

  2. ILMflyer

    July 20, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    Obviously, there are two sides of the story. We don’t have a video of the inflight incident. However, “Carol” should have remained poised at all times while representing American Airlines. It sounds like another crew member was trying to rally her back to reality. Unfortunately, Carol’s threatening behavior on the way to customs was out of line and not character of a flight attendant.

  3. J S

    July 21, 2019 at 5:53 am

    The following statement is stupidly wrong on two counts.

    “It should be noted that following a flight attendant around the airport with a video camera (for whatever reason) is something akin to following your waitress home because she forgot to bring a side of ranch dressing.”

    1) Following a flight attendant HOME would be akin to following a waitress home. No one followed this flight attendant home.

    2) On what planet is (alleged) racism equivalent to forgetting ranch dressing?

  4. djjaguar64

    July 21, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    Majority of AA crew is racist.

  5. jayer

    July 21, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    So why did you feel it was appropriate or even that you you had all the necessary facts to declare Carol a “Racist Flight Attendant” in the headline? I see a woman off duty being chased through an airport by people trying to record something inflammatory on a cellphone. I suppose they got it, but isn’t that stalking? Or maybe she was thinking of anything she could to escape. Why did you publish the clip?

    Whatever happened on the airplane, and the 30 year remark is more easily interpreted as a tired and probably burnt-out flight attendant who did not view herself as their hospital more orderly than anything else, it is not appropriate to chase her through the airport making accusations on camera. Complain if you feel it appropriate but you just ran her down to restart an altercation.

  6. Gynob001

    July 22, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Flight attendants are also humans. They have likes and dislikes. I have had great many pleasant experiences with FAs who have gone out of the way to help me and make my flight comfortable and enjoyable. Conversely, I have had flights in which the FAs acted as if I didn’t belong in the plane and was an inferior being. Some of them assume that white color people are well educated, smart, and fun people while dark colored people are illiterate, disease stricken, contagious outcasts.
    The most important FAs to avoid are those who were flirting with some passengers. They get angry if you disturb their conversations with the elite!

  7. bostontraveler

    July 22, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    It was actually worsAbout 6 years ago my sister and I traveled in Business class from Buenos Aires to Newark on UA.
    The crew had started dinner service. They suddenly stopped and got into a very loud and heated argument in the galley- read, yelling and bad language.
    They left the carts in the aisle for over 45 minutes.
    When they stopped fighting, the flight attendants came back and traded insults across the cabin “oh, 3A wants a gin tonic, why don’t YOU do take care of it lazy b*tch?”… this went on for a while.
    About 2.5 hours into the flight the carts were still sitting in the aisles and the yelling continued. Everyone was totally disgusted.
    There was an obvious air marshal onboard… totally out of place in tattered shorts, a tanktop and flip-flops (it was winter in Buenos Aires). He spent the entire time hanging out in the galley.
    And here was our MAJOR mistake, which I will NEVER do again.
    We both got up and went to talk to the purser (who was patently insane). Air marshal (we presume) bubba in the background. We basically said to her in a nice manner that it was a 10hr flight, that we were tired but that there were several elderly couples that just wanted to eat and go to sleep.
    Purser told us to sit down immediately or to face charges of insubordination. Silly me in a calm voice said, Maam, we are not fighting with you- just saying that the carts have been in the aisle for 2+ hours and you guys are fighting. Can we just calm down, get our dinners and go to sleep??
    Lo and behold my sister and I landed in Newark and lovely Miss Purser had informed ground staff we had been belligerent.
    Security stopped us at the jet bridge and sat us down (we definitely don’t fit the profile of aggressive folk!!). We explained what happened. We were really lucky. They were totally normal..they understood and said thank you.

    When I wrote to UA and explained this sh&tshow they brushed it off. They called me and said that the purser’s version had been validated by a TSA agent and that both my sister and I were out of line for saying anything at all.

    Moral of the story in the US- DON’T say a word because like everything post 9/11 it will be distorted as a “security” issue, at which point you have lost the battle and may well be accused of something criminal.
    Get all the names, times, videos, etc. Document everything….

    Then complain.

  8. mvoight

    July 23, 2019 at 6:50 am

    The immigration comment was racist, no doubt about it.
    The comment made on the plane was inappropriate, and the one made after the flight was something that should never happen.

  9. yabadoo

    July 23, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    The Airlines, the employees, the immigration airlines, the airport workers are all in cahoots with each other, complaining about one of them is like complaining about all of them so they they support each other and draw the wagons close to them. Which is why unless you have video evidence these days, your version on events and nothing you say will ever be taken seriously and acted upon. In this regard, sad to say, David Dao hit the jackpot when that incident happened on United, and even after that the CEO of United tried to play it all down till it all below up on the media channels. The Ace of Spades that the airline industry use against you for any incident is that you’re a security threat, once they draw that card it’s basically game over for you.

  10. awayIgo

    July 24, 2019 at 4:43 am

    5his seems to be an issue of two wrongs do NOT make a right.

    A. If the FA was inappropriate on the flight than record it, if you want (how come no recording of this) and share with airline,

    B. The family was inappropriate in following the FA to continue the argument. Most likely waiting for her since FAs are last off.

    My gut tells me the FA wasn’t as bad as the family claims. It appears, IMHO, that by calling her out, camera ready, they were looking to provoke something that would make the FA totally wrong. AND, unfortunately she seems to have complied. When they called her out she should,have told,them her day is over, file a complaint ( over and over if need be) – or said nothing and if they continued she could have told police they were stalking/ threatening HER.

  11. derekno

    July 24, 2019 at 4:45 am

    Most US stewardesses and stewards have chips on their shoulders — and why? serving drinks makes you a prince- or princess-in-exile? My solution: do not patronise AA, DL, & UA (the absolute worst). They love to say, ‘we realise you have a choice in air travel ….” This is propaganda — they’ve bought out all the competition so they can offer crap service with no oversight. I fly WN, AS, and ANY foreign carrier.

  12. MitchR

    July 24, 2019 at 5:56 am

    I’m a 4 + million mile flyer, AA Executive Platinum. I have had less than ten incidents in over 40 years of flying on AA. The big difference is that the 3 incidents that I have had since the merger were met with snarky, “we don’t care”, responses from AA. Their customer service is deteriorating fast and their Corporate staff is now treating customers as the enemy even more so than their front line personnel.

  13. AADFW

    July 24, 2019 at 6:22 am

    I think the problem here is very well described by bostontraveler — airlines will ALWAYS brush off complaints of any and every variety related to poor FA conduct and tend to respond to such passenger grievances with canned and irrelevant language. It seems quite often the ONLY way to get their attention is to post video evidence of wildly inappropriate employee behavior directly to social media. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is.

  14. gunsar

    July 24, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Back to the question, can she “Make It Difficult for You In Customs”?

    If yes, how?

  15. arcticflier

    July 24, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    What I see is an alleged PAX or group of PAX harassing an airline employee while she is minding her own business and that type of harassment warrants closer inspection by a Law Enforcement agency (in this case, Customs).

    I do not see any evidence of a FA angered at a PAX who is ill or who is making racist comments nor do there appear to be fellow passengers who witnessed such an event and are coming forward.

    Based on the evidence made available at this time, it appears the PAX is the only one being hostile.

  16. seigex

    July 25, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    “To make matters worse, the family involved in the exchange says that the airline worker attempted to make good on her threat, by later urging customs officials to treat the group with suspicion.”

    Where’s the evidence of this? And everything from the family is he-said she-said.. “I’ve been dealing with you people for 30 years” was probably “I know how to handle this, I’ve been dealing with passengers for 30 years”. The phrase “racist flight attendant” from the original headline (still in the URL to the post) and the call of “racially tinged” has no actual supporting evidence. When people are mad, they will bend what people say to make the person look worse and them more of a victim. This is a poorly written article.

  17. boeingguy1

    July 26, 2019 at 7:14 am

    “going for great” … AA is such a joke.

  18. White Eagle

    July 27, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    Hi bostontraveler of July 22, I really relate to your United BUE-EWR flight. UNITED is just that way…total incompetency everywhere…I will never fly UA again!!! (I HOPE!!)

  19. Pmun

    July 29, 2019 at 9:29 am

    I’m not white and “‘Oh please, I’ve been dealing with you people for 30-years,’” doesn’t sound racist to me… I mean it COULD be interpreted that way but like we don’t know the full story. Maybe the passenger is a bit overly sensitive.

  20. drphun

    August 2, 2019 at 5:18 am

    Why doesn’t “you people” mean “people who have gotten sick”?

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